Battle to rein in City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement unit heating up

Parliament’s portfolio committee on police has suggested the unit be combined with the Metro police for greater accountability. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures

Parliament’s portfolio committee on police has suggested the unit be combined with the Metro police for greater accountability. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures

Published Sep 7, 2020


Cape Town - The battle to rein in the City’s Law Enforcement unit, widely criticised for heavy-handedness when dealing with land invasions and evictions, is hotting up as Parliament’s portfolio committee on police suggested the unit be combined with the Metro police for greater accountability.

However, the City said the plan was an attempt to bring the Metro police under control of the national police and that it was prepared to fight it all the way to the Constitutional Court.

This comes after the City last week briefed the committee on evictions that happened in Khayelitsha, and the heavy-handedness of law enforcement during land invasions and evictions.

Committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson said they were informed that, due to the fact that law enforcement officers were appointed in terms of Section 334 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, it places them outside the investigative ambit of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Act.

Joemat-Pettersson said that created a gap in the oversight of the department as it performed policing functions. This was the context in which the committee advised the City to consider integrating the department into the municipal police, she said.

“The committee calls for an existence of a closer and mutually beneficial relationship that will ensure a co-ordinated response to policing challenges in the city.

“Inter-agency collaboration is central in winning the war against criminality and no one operating alone will succeed in this noble endeavour,” Joemat-Pettersson said.

She said in relation to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) Act, the committee re-emphasised that the amendment of the Act remained a priority, hence the call for the integration of the law enforcement officers into the City police as the committee deals with the problem of lacuna in the law.

Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said he suspected that the national government and the ANC were being mischievous in that they were using the excuse of accountability to try to achieve an entirely different goal.

Smith said it was the intention of the national government to attempt to hijack the Metro police in the very foreseeable future by amending the Police Services Act to provide for a single police service, “which we believe is unconstitutional and which we will fight all the way to the Constitutional Court”.

He said, however, the change in legislation would not succeed in giving them control of Law Enforcement. “So they were using a dishonest argument to try and get the City to include Law Enforcement in Metro police which we will never do as we have contemplated the matter very carefully and have a very clear reason for having separate services.

“They are also dishonest about the level of oversight as Law Enforcement is subject to much more oversight than SAPS and the failure to include law enforcement under the oversight of Ipid, is their failure as the Ipid Act is national legislation that they have had years to amend, as we have for years been calling for them to include traffic and Law Enforcement under the act,” Smith said.

He said the committee were also conveniently “pretending” it applied only to Cape Town “when in fact hundreds of municipalities across the country have law enforcement services they do not fall under Ipid and which they were not seeking to address.

“As for the working relationship between the SAPS and the City’s enforcement agencies, I can confirm that it is very solid on the ground and that we do joint operations on a daily basis.

“But this becomes complicated as you go further up the political chain of command and where political interference becomes problematic, such as the political instruction that was given by Police Minister Bheki Cele to senior SAPS members to exclude the City’s enforcement services from planning meetings when the spate of land invasions started,” Smith said.

He said that resulted in the temporary lack of support from SAPS for those operations.

ANC provincial spokesperson on community safety, Mesuli Kama, said the party had long ago made its intention clear that there must be only one integrated policing service in the country and not a fragmented splinter group approach.

Kama said there was no ulterior motive to want all policing service workers, including traffic law enforcement, the VIP protection unit and by-law enforcement officials, under one command.

“The unaccountability of the City’s Law Enforcement unit is really a serious issue that must be addressed. We don’t know why Smith is seemingly downplaying that,” Kama said.

Cape Argus